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Ranking the Top 25 Buffalo Sabres of All Time

Rob PattersonContributor IIIAugust 20, 2013

Ranking the Top 25 Buffalo Sabres of All Time

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    Though the Buffalo Sabres have never captured a Stanley Cup in their 43-year history, the team has been the home of many successful NHL players. Today, we pay homage to 25 of the best men to sport the blue and gold (or the late 90s goat logo if you're into that).

    Those who made the cut on this list include both Hall of Fame members and role players alike. Some were lifelong Sabres and others were only around for a short period of time. All of these players made a considerable impact on the team in their time in Buffalo.

    In distinguishing from one player to another, there's an obvious degree of subjectivity. There's no way to make this an exact science, but the things taken into consideration are statistics, longevity and fan appreciation.

    Let's dive in.

25. Lindy Ruff

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    Standing tall in the 25th spot is a man who made more of an impact behind the bench than he ever did on the ice. Still, Lindy Ruff was a key man for the team as a player.

    Drafted 32nd overall in 1979, Ruff played defense and winger in his years with the organization. Though he only totaled 300 points in his 691-game career, Ruff was lauded for his toughness, character and hard work on the ice. 

    From 1986-89, he served as the captain of the team following the great Gilbert Perreault.

    His impact on the ice wasn't very noticeable on the scoresheet, but between his years as a player and coach, Ruff will always have a huge place in Sabres lore.

     

24. Rob Ray

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    Rob Ray was never known for his scoring prowess. The right winger registered only 91 points in 900 career games. That being said, "Rayzor" made his presence felt in other ways for the Sabres.

    In his career, Ray spent an absurd 3,207 minutes in the penalty box. Most of these were for fighting as he was one of the toughest men to grace the sport in the 1990s.

    He even had a rule named after him, thanks to his propensity to remove his helmet, jersey and pads.

    Ray scored on his first and last shift in the NHL, which is just about the most positive thing you can say about the fifth-round pick in the 1988 NHL Draft's offensive skill.

    Today, Ray works for the Sabres as the color commentator alongside Rick Jeanneret. He may not have been the most skilled of players, but Ray will forever be a fan favorite in Buffalo.

23. Miroslav Satan

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    Not as beloved as the previous two—but far more talented—Miroslav Satan was the main offensive threat for the pre-lockout Sabres. Despite his inconsistency, the slender 6'3" Slovakian led the Sabres in points on six different occasions in his seven years with the club.

    Satan scored over 20 goals in each of his years with the Sabres. He was never a heart-and-soul kind of player, but he defined the term sniper. After his stop in Buffalo, Satan played for the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins.

    In 2009, Satan finally got his name on the Stanley Cup as a member of the Penguins. Today, he appears to be retired from the game after suffering a severe injury at the hands of Zdeno Chara in late 2012 in the Slovak Extraliga.

    He'll never be regarded as one of the best players in team history, but Satan was the premier offensive force during his tenure with the team. 

22. Mike Foligno

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    Drafted third overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 1979, Mike Foligno was a physical forward who put up the offensive numbers to match it. He spent ten years as a member of the Sabres, during which time he scored 247 goals (seventh in team history) and 1,450 penalty minutes (second).

    From 1981 to 1989, Foligno put up eight consecutive 20-goal seasons, topping out at 41 in the 1985-86 campaign. After his time with the Sabres, he spent four years with the Toronto Maple Leafs and had a cup of coffee with the Florida Panthers before hanging up the skates.

    Foligno and his family settled down in Buffalo, and today his youngest son Marcus dons the blue and gold. Now, he serves as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils under Peter DeBoer. 

    Though he was never the most skilled player on the ice, Foligno was and still remains well-loved by the Buffalo faithful.

21. Jason Pominville

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    Drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft, Jason Pominville was one of the key cogs on the Sabres roster throughout his tenure in Buffalo. At the 2013 trade deadline, the captain was shipped away to Minnesota at the start of what appears to be a long rebuild. No matter what, though, Pominville will be remembered fondly by most fans.

    Though he never has been a truly elite offensive force, Pominville's two-way game and hard-working attitude were refreshing on a team that often lacked both. His consistency should also be lauded, as he scored at least 20 goals for six consecutive seasons. 

    Pominville's most shining moment in the Sabres uniform came very early on in his career: In the 2006 playoffs, he scored this series-clinching goal against the heavily-favored Ottawa Senators to advance to the conference finals.

     

20. Mike Ramsey

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    Mike Ramsey was a member of the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team and went on to have one of the most successful professional careers of the bunch. Drafted in the first round of the 1979 NHL Draft by the Sabres, the previously offensively-inclined defenseman became rock solid.

    Ramsey spent parts of 14 different seasons with the Sabres, serving as the captain from 1991-92. His 911 games played with the team are the third most in franchise history. His physical presence was a force to be reckoned with throughout his tenure with the team.

    He played in four NHL All-Star games in a Sabres uniform and was also a member of the 1987 All-Star team that faced off against the Soviet Union. 

    Ramsey finished off his career with five seasons spent with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. However, his legacy will always be tied with the Sabres organization, earning him a spot on our list.

19. Bill Hajt

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    Bill Hajt was the 33rd overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1971 draft and established himself as one of the top stay-at-home defensemen in the team's history.

    Never a very flashy player, Hajt recorded a modest 244 points in his 854 career games. He spent his entire career with Buffalo and ranks second in team history in plus/minus while playing the fifth most games. 

    Standing at 6'3" and 205 pounds, Hajt was strong on the puck and was an extremely effective breakout passer. Pairing that with his simple defensive game meant that the team didn't need to worry whenever he took the ice.

    Though he largely flew under the radar in terms of fan recognition, due to the nature of his game, Hajt certainly ranks among the most notable Sabres in the team's history.

18. Tom Barrasso

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    Tom Barrasso was the fifth overall selection by the Sabres in the 1983 NHL Draft. Though the era he played in was not very kind to goalie statistics, Barrasso made up for it in terms of awards.

    His rookie season—at age 18, no less—was marked by a Calder Trophy, All-Star appearance and the 1983-84 Vezina Trophy.

    Barrasso only played in Buffalo for parts of six seasons before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. There, he won two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, making his name as a clutch performer.

    He finished his career with 369 wins and an induction into the US Hockey Hall of Fame. Overall, he spent most of his time in a Penguins uniform, so his identity does not lie with the Sabres.

    Still, Barrasso had his start in Buffalo and therefore deserves recognition as a member of this list.

17. Pierre Turgeon

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    Pierre Turgeon was the first overall selection in the 1987 NHL Draft out of the QMJHL.

    "Sneaky Pete" only spent a little more than four seasons in a Buffalo uniform, but he certainly left no doubt as to how skilled he was in that time.

    In 322 games in Buffalo, he registered 323 points, highlighted by a 106-point season in 1989-90. At the beginning of the 1991-92 season, he was traded to the New York Islanders along with multiple other players for Pat LaFontaine. 

    Turgeon ended up playing for five other teams after the Sabres, totaling 1,327 points in his 1,294-game career. His short stint in Buffalo ensures that he doesn't have the popularity of other Sabre greats. But, make no mistake: Turgeon was one of the most skilled players to play for the Sabres in their 43-year history.

     

16. Dale Hawerchuk

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    Though the 2001 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee will always be remembered for his time with the Winnipeg Jets, Dale Hawerchuk was quite the player in his five-year stint with the Sabres. In 342 games in Buffalo, "Ducky" put up 385 points.

    The 5'11" center was the first overall pick by the Jets in 1981 and played until 1997 between the Jets, Sabres, Blues and Flyers. In 2011, he was honored as a member of the Sabres Hall of Fame when the Jets visited the Sabres.

    He is the only NHL player to play 1,000 games before the age of 31 and was an incredibly consistent performer. He finished his career with 1,409 points in 1,188 games.

15. Craig Ramsay

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    Never an elite player, but a solid contributor for many years, Craig Ramsay was a lifelong member of the Sabres. His 1,070 games played rank only behind Gilbert Perreault in team history. On top of that, he ranks fourth in points (672), fifth in goals (252) and third in assists (420).

    The Sabres selected Ramsay 19th in the 1971 NHL Draft, making him their second ever first-round pick. The 5'10", 175 pound left winger was best known for his defensive abilities, winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy in the 1984-85 season. He paired with Don Luce and Danny Gare to create one of the best shutdown lines in the league.

    After retirement, Ramsay made his way into the coaching sphere, spending time in the Sabres organization as an assistant, interim coach and assistant general manager. Later, he coached the Philadelphia Flyers and Atlanta Thrashers before currently settling in as an assistant for the Florida Panthers.

    Though not the most talented player to play in Buffalo, his long tenure with the Sabres made him beloved.

14. Chris Drury

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    Chris Drury was never the kind of player who lit up the scoreboard. His value to the Sabres was specifically in his leadership and clutch performances, something that has been sorely missed since his departure.

    Drury arrived in Buffalo in a trade with Calgary in exchange for Steve Reinprecht and Rhett Warrener. It's safe to say that the Sabres won that one. For the following three seasons, he injected a hard-working attitude into a team that had been down in the dumps.

    In 2006-07, he put up a career-high 69 points, including 37 goals. Plenty of them were of the clutch variety, and it was never a surprise to see the co-captain out on the ice in every important situation.

    Perhaps his most shining moment as a Sabre was this game-tying goal with seven seconds remaining in Game 5 against the Rangers.

    He later went on to sign with the Rangers in free agency, but never duplicated the statistical success he found in Buffalo. Now Drury is retired, but has the universal respect of the entire hockey community.

13. Daniel Briere

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    Danny Briere's time in Buffalo was very brief, but he was one of the key members of a few of the best teams in Sabres history. Acquired in a trade from the Phoenix Coyotes for perennial under-achiever Chris Gratton, Briere made his mark in a big way after the NHL lockout.

    As one of the co-captains on the 2006-07 squad that won the Presidents' Trophy, Briere put up 95 points to lead the Sabres. During the era with Lindy Ruff behind the bench, that number was pretty unheard of. 

    The Sabres made two consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals with Briere at the helm before losing him to unrestricted free agency in the dreadful summer of 2007.

    He was, and has always been, a prime time playoff performer.

    Today, Briere will return to Buffalo as a division rival with his hometown Montreal Canadiens. Though fans were originally bitter about his departure from Buffalo, he always stated his desire to remain with the team.

    It would be a big surprise to see him greeted with anything but appreciation and respect from the people of Buffalo.

12. Jim Schoenfeld

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    Jim Schoenfeld was selected by the Sabres with the fifth overall pick in the 1972 NHL Draft. The 6'2" Ontario native became a fan favorite in his rookie season as he took on three Boston Bruins in a fight. From there on, he made his reputation as a solid, tough two-way defender.

    He played in parts of 11 different seasons with the Sabres, serving as the team's captain from 1974-77. As soon as he retired in 1985, he became the coach of the team the following year. He was fired after the team finished fifth in the Adams division, but later went on to coach for the New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals and Phoenix Coyotes. 

    Schoenfeld ranks third for the Sabres in all time plus/minus rating and is undoubtedly considered amongst the top defenders that have played in Buffalo. 

    Currently, he serves as the assistant general manager of the New York Rangers.

11. Rene Robert

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    Rene Robert was one third of the famous "French Connection" line, playing on the wing alongside Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin. He entered the league in 1970 as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs and enjoyed a brief stop in Pittsburgh before catching up with the Sabres.

    In his first full season in Buffalo, Robert put up 83 points in 75 games. Then, he went on to register 100 points two seasons later, becoming the first member of the organization to do just that. 

    Of course, Robert greatly benefited from the talent of his linemates, specifically the great Gilbert Perreault. Still, the group maintains a huge place of honor within the organization.

    His number 14 was retired in 1995 in a joint ceremony with Rick Martin. 

    Robert finished up his career in Toronto after a two-year stint with the Colorado Rockies. Despite his travels to other cities, his identity lies strictly with the Sabres and the legendary line that he helped make.

10. Ryan Miller

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    A current member of the Sabres, Ryan Miller has been a pillar of (moderate) consistency throughout the last decade in Buffalo. Today, he enters the last year of his contract and remains heavily talked about in the trade rumor mill. Still, there is no doubt that "Millsy" ranks among the greatest Sabres of all time.

    Drafted out of Michigan State in the fifth round in 1999, Miller slowly worked his way up to the professional ranks. Once he arrived in Buffalo, it became clear that he, not Martin Biron, was the future of the team in net.

    Despite some seasons in which Miller has been mediocre, he has often had to deal with below-average defense in front of him. In the 2009-10 season, he won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie and was also the MVP of the Olympic Games. He hasn't been able to duplicate that success since, but is still widely considered a top-tier goalie in the NHL.

    Miller has his fair share of critics—and you can certainly count me among them—but his 269 career wins rank first in Sabres history. He may not be as dominant as another goalie we'll see later on in this list, but Miller will always hold a place in Sabres lore.

     

9. Phil Housley

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    Phil Housley played for 21 years in the NHL, spending the first eight of those with Buffalo. Selected sixth overall in the 1982 draft, Housley was the definition of an offensive defenseman.

    In his rookie season with the Sabres, the 18-year-old put up an extremely impressive 66 points in 77 games. From there, he went on to produce 1,232 points in 1,495 games. Though he had some defensive deficiencies, those numbers are undoubtedly impressive, as he ranks second all-time in points by a US-born player.

    In 2007, he was inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame and is also a member of the USA Hockey Hall of Fame. Though he played for seven other teams in his career, Housley made his name in his years in Buffalo.

    Today, he is an assistant coach for the Nashville Predators after leading the US World Junior U20 team to a gold medal in 2013. 

8. Danny Gare

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    The diminutive Danny Gare was a very productive, scrappy player for the Sabres during the 1970s and early 1980s. Twice a 50-goal scorer, he tied for the league lead with 56 in the 1979-80 season.

    In his eight seasons with Buffalo, Gare notched 267 goals, which is good enough for the fourth in team history. He had a quick wrist shot and is easily among the top few right wingers the organization has had.

    From 1977-81, Gare served as captain of the team before being shipped off to the Detroit Red Wings. There, he played five seasons before making one final pit stop in Edmonton prior to retirement.

    After retirement, Gare has served in multiple capacities on the Sabres broadcast team. Today, he works as a color commentator with Kevin Sylvester when Rick Jeanneret has the day off. 

    Gare's number 18 is one of the handful of jerseys that hang in the rafters in Buffalo, a sign of the organization's affinity for him. Gare was a good player and a Sabre through and through.

     

7. Thomas Vanek

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    Drafted fifth overall in the ridiculous 2003 NHL Draft, Thomas Vanek has been one of the greatest goal-scorers in the history of the franchise. He will forever be linked to a ludicrous offer sheet by the Oilers, but the Austrian has certainly earned a significant amount of that money through on-ice play.

    Since entering the league, Vanek ranks among the top ten in the NHL in goals with 250. That alone puts him in sixth place in Sabres history.

    For most of his career, Vanek has never been the fan-favorite in Buffalo, but his popularity amongst the Sabres faithful has grown recently. He stands to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2014, and will be sorely missed if all goes as expected.

    Regardless of Vanek's future in the Queen City, Sabres fans will always remember him as one of the most purely talented players to grace the rink in Buffalo. 

6. Dave Andreychuk

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    In 1982, the Sabres selected the 6'4" Dave Andreychuk with the 16th overall pick in the draft. The man made his living in front of the net and on the power play, using his massive frame to create space and do the dirty work.

    Andreychuk played an incredible 23 NHL seasons, spending parts of 12 with Buffalo. His 1,639 games played are good enough for sixth in NHL history and he has the most power-play goals of all time with 274. He ranks second in Sabres history in points and assists while ranking third in goals.

    Though he was unable to win a Stanley Cup in Buffalo, he finally did so in Tampa Bay at the age of 40. He was inducted as a member of the Sabres Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008 and will forever be linked to linemates Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny.

     

5. Alexander Mogilny

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    In parts of six seasons with the Sabres, Alex Mogilny established himself as one of the most talented players on the planet. Playing with Pat Lafontaine and Dave Andreychuk, he put up a monstrous season in 1992-93 recording an absolutely ridiculous 76 goals. 

    If you ask me, the story of Mogilny's arrival to Buffalo is one of the most underappreciated in professional sports. With the help of the Sabres, he defected from the Soviet Union team after the 1989 World Hockey Championships. From there, he didn't look back as he took the league by storm.

    As Mike Morreale of NHL.com noted in a feature on their legendary line, Pat LaFontaine said, "[I] always will admire the tremendous hands and acceleration exhibited by [Mogilny]. To this day, [I don't] believe [I've] seen a player faster than Mogilny from blue line to blue line."

    Mogilny left Buffalo on less-than-stellar terms, as he and his severe fear of flying were shipped to the Vancouver Canucks, the most well-travelled team in the NHL. Looking back, though, there is no doubt that he was one of the few greatest hockey players to don the Sabres uniform.

4. Pat LaFontaine

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    One of the most talented Americans to ever lace up the skates was Pat LaFontaine. Though he was not a career-long Sabre, he made a massive impact during his time in Buffalo.

    In parts of six seasons, the Hall of Fame inductee only played 268 games for the blue and gold. Boy, did he make his mark in those few games—registering 385 points.

    His best season came alongside Alexander Mogilny as he registered 148 points, the highest single season mark by any American-born hockey player.

    In his time in Buffalo, LaFontaine made a big impact off the ice, too. He was a model citizen in the community and endeared himself to the entire city. Today, his number 16 is retired in the rafters of the First Niagara Center to honor his place in the organization's history.

    LaFontaine's career was prematurely cut short due to concussion problems, but he will always be remembered as one of the greatest Americans to play the sport of hockey. He won the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1995 for his dedication to the sport, perseverance and sportsmanship.

    For Sabre fans, his name will always be closely linked to the legendary call by Rick Jeanneret. You can find it at about the :20 mark of this video.

3. Rick Martin

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    The late Rick Martin was one of the most fondly appreciated Sabres as a member of the legendary "French Connection" line. Alongside Rene Robert and Gilbert Perreault, Martin also put up some of the team's best statistics. That lands him here in the third spot on our list.

    With 382 goals, Martin is the second greatest goal scorer in Sabres history. Sure, we have to give some credit to his Hall of Fame linemate Perreault, but his 695 points in 681 games in Buffalo are impressive nonetheless.

    Drafted fifth overall in the 1971 draft, Rico played in Buffalo for 10 different seasons. His number seven is retired by the organization and hangs up in the rafters of the First Niagara Center next to his linemates.

    Tragically, he died in the spring of 2011 at the age of 59 due to a cardiovascular disease that often affects NHL enforcers. Forever beloved by the Buffalo community, Martin will always be remembered as one of the top players in the team's early years.

2. Dominik Hasek

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    As a goalie, Dominik Hasek's success defied logic. The Czech Republic native had an unorthodox style, but it suited him and the organization well. 

    In his time with the Sabres, Hasek accrued an insane amount of individual hardware. That included six Vezina trophies, two Hart trophies, two William Jennings trophies and two Lester Pearson trophies. 

    Hasek had the best years of his career in Buffalo, posting a 2.22 GAA and .926 SV percent, both of which remain Sabre records. Even more impressive than his overall statistics, though, were some of his absurd individual performances. The best of those had to have been his 70-save shutout in a 4OT game against New Jersey. 

    Hasek left Buffalo on less-than-ideal terms due to a nasty conflict with Ted Nolan and the desire to play for a winner. He went on to win two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings and is undoubtedly among the top handful of goalies of all time.

    Though he could never win it all with the Sabres, Hasek carried the team on his back for a number of years. He and the next man on this list are truly in a league of their own in Buffalo hockey history.

1. Gilbert Perreault

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    Gilbert Perreault was the first ever draft selection of the Buffalo Sabres. Boy, did they hit on that one. The first overall pick in the 1970 draft was one of the slickest centers to grace the league. 

    Playing in 17 different NHL seasons, Perreault only wore the blue and gold of Buffalo. Many years later, he still dominates almost every offensive statistical category for the team and has played more games in Buffalo than any other man.

    Perreault made nine All-Star Game appearances in addition to winning one Lady Byng Trophy and the Calder Trophy. His number 11 is retired by the Sabres and he is also a member of the NHL Hall of Fame. 

    He may not rank as highly as Dominik Hasek in terms of NHL lore, but Perreault was a Sabre through and through. His loyalty to the organization was unparalleled. For this, he beats out the Dominator as the greatest Sabre of all time.

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